The Hoopla about Hoodia
The herb Hoodia has received much attention in recent years, with claims of being a miraculous supplement that naturally suppresses appetite and helps with weight loss. A wide range of Hoodia products, from capsules and tablets to protein shakes and chocolate chews, seem to be sold where ever you look, from internet websites to local health food stores and big-box discount stores.
The desire for a weight loss solution is apparent by consumers willingness to pay anywhere from and more to purchase a 30-day supply of Hoodia supplements. The overall sales are in the millions of dollars, an overwhelming indication that a vast amount of people are “hungry” for a weight loss miracle.
But does Hoodia live up to the expectations?
If you are looking for a weight loss supplement, before you buy any product labeled with Hoodia, there are a few things you should know.
What is Hoodia?
Hoodia is the name of a flowering desert plant that grows in South Africa. It is not one type of plant, but a genus of 13 different species of hoodia. Although Hoodia is cactus-like, it is not a cactus. It is a stem succulent that grows about 3 feet high and produces large, tan, strong smelling flowers. Many species of Hoodia are grown as garden plants, but it is one species, Hoodia gordonii, that has gained popularity as a natural appetite suppressant that can aid in weight loss.
What is the weight loss connection?
The story behind the Hoodia hoopla begins in 1937, when a Dutch anthropologist first observed the appetite suppressant effects of Hoodia. He was studying the Kalahari Bushmen of South Africa and noticed that they would eat the stem of the Hoodia plant, which the bushmen called Xhoba, to reduce their hunger and thirst while hunting in the desert.
While the Kalahari Bushmen have long relied on Hoodia for survival in the desert, the outside world sees it as a “magic pill” for weight loss. The claim is that the natural appetite suppressing properties of Hoodia will reduce hunger, thus individuals will eat less and lose weight.
How does Hoodia promote weight loss?
Some of the experts familiar with Hoodia say that current research suggests that there is some type of appetite-suppressing mechanism in Hoodia, which tricks the brain into thinking that it has eaten and sends signals to the body that it is full. This reduces the desire to eat and delays hunger sensations, resulting in smaller portions and fewer calories consumed. The net result is weight loss.
Whether or not Hoodia actually helps with weight loss, however, has not yet been scientifically established. Only a few small studies have been done and the evidence is considered inadequate to support (or deny) the claims. The general consensus in the medical community is that there is “no conclusive evidence to support the claim of appetite suppression.”
What are the side effects of Hoodia?
There are no reported side effects of Hoodia or known safety problems with it’s use. However, this is not the same as saying it is safe. Whether or not there are any side effects or health consequences with using Hoodia is not known as it has not yet been studied.
As a precaution, individuals with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, or on medications, should not take Hoodia without first discussing it with their doctor. In all cases, always let your doctor know if you are taking supplements, as this is an important aspect of monitoring your overall health.
Consumers must be careful when taking any supplement that has not been studied, as natural does not always mean safe. Because Hoodia is sold as a dietary supplement and not a prescription drug or over-the-counter medication, it does not need to be evaluated by the FDA for safety before it is sold to the public.
What about buying Hoodia?
If you are curious and want to try Hoodia for yourself, it is important to shop carefully. There are many Hoodia products being sold that are either fake or don’t have enough Hoodia in them to work. It is important to buy Hoodia at a reputable store and to buy a reputable brand.
Many companies have sprung up to cash in on the Hoodia craze. It is estimated that 60% to 80% of the Hoodia products sold in the United States are either counterfeit or cut with cheaper ingredients.
One indicator of deceit is that the amount of Hoodia being sold is greater than the supply available from the South African markets. Another indicator is price. Many Hoodia products are sold too cheaply to be genuine Hoodia.
There are three things to look for authenticity from a manufacturer: a CITES certificate (issued under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to legally export out of Africa); a USDA permit (issued for legal import into United States); and lab results from an independent lab showing that product tested genuine.
What is the weight loss reality of Hoodia?
The claims are that Hoodia is a natural appetite-suppressant, not that it makes pounds disappear. Whether or not Hoodia actually works is still to be studied, but in the end, weight loss will only occur if you eat less, eat healthy, and exercise more. There is no “magic pill” or easy way to weight loss.